Cope boss grilled over allegations of verbal abuse of care home residents

The head of a disability service was summoned to a showdown with watchdogs after staff faced repeated allegations of verbal abuse of vulnerable residents in a care home.

Colette Kelleher, chief executive of the Cope Foundation, which cares for more than 2,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Cork, was asked to address what inspectors branded “completely inadequate protection from abuse”.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said the alleged abuse took place in the Ard Dara centre in north Cork City during inspections in both March and June last year.

“Inspectors had serious concerns that the provider’s safeguarding plan following the last incident, and measures to protect residents from forms of abuse, were completely inadequate,” its report said.

“With regard to the investigation of incidents or allegations of abuse, inspectors were not assured that management were investigating, where appropriate, the incidents recorded.”

Inspectors made immediate orders during the second visit, after two buses with badly worn tyres were deemed unsafe and suction machines used to treat a choking resident were either broken or could not be operated.

It also criticised a lack of risk management for individual residents using the swimming pool, including how to deal with epilepsy and falls. The use of restraints was a major concern and described as unsuitable and inconsistent.

Care notes detailed one resident being put in a groin harness due to a risk the person would hit out at staff or fall, or because of a lack of staff, yet management claimed during the inspection it was no longer used.

Inspectors said they doubted workers’ understanding of challenging behaviours, with some describing residents’ actions as “unacceptable” or “in plain terms stubborn”.

“In many cases, a negative attitude towards residents’ behaviours that challenge was demonstrated by staff,” the report states.

Elsewhere, a resident with dementia had no specific care plan; another with epilepsy was not given necessary medications overnight, one resident did not have necessary blood monitoring for two years; and another resident lost 5kg over two months but was not seen by a dietician.

Hiqa includes documentation on the steps taken by the Cope Foundation, immediately after the inspection in June and in the subsequent weeks and months, to address the concerns.

Over the course of 35 pages in the 57-page report, Hiqa catalogues more than 200 actions taken by the care provider to improve staff awareness and training, prevent abuse and the use of restraint, and raise standards in the home.

Cope Foundation said it accepts the findings were wholly unacceptable. It said a follow-up inspection in September recorded significant progress after extra funding from the HSE was secured and changes were made in management and staff.

Cope Foundation said it was in talks with families of residents over the issues. “There have been multiple Hiqa inspections of Cope Foundation’s residential centres to date and overall inspectors have found high levels of care and compliance with regulation,” it said.

A separate follow-up inspection of Grove House — a residential centre in Cork City for adults with intellectual disabilities — found that while there had been some improvements since a previous inspection, there continued to be “a significant level of non-compliance” with the Health Act 2007.


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